Free Vegetable Inside! : Lori's 1st Garden

It sounds a little bit like a marketing gimmick, "Free Vegetable with Purchase!" It was never planned to be this way, but that's what many of our clients received from us (along with their photographs) this summer. I had no idea what I was doing, and somehow managed to end up with enough vegetables for us, neighbors, friends, family, clients, and random strangers on the street. A typical harvest

Some of it I would freeze or save, but there was way more than the two of us could eat before it went bad. So between the months of July and August, almost every guest I had at the house went home with zucchinis, peppers or cucumbers.

This was my first year attempting a real veggie garden. My husband, John and I planted a small one a few years ago - but a few cucumbers and some basil hardly counts as a garden. This year, we went all out with a 20'x20' patch just outside my office window. I borrowed a gardening basics book from my mom and plotted it out. We got started a little late... ahem, around the second week of June. That was due to some weather and landscaping issues, but it worked out in the end.

garden progression

Here are some of the lessons I learned this year:

  1. Butternut squash takes up a lot of space. As in, it takes over. Plan for triple the size you thought it would get.
  2. Green onions are just the "above ground" part of regular onions
  3. Broccoli is a flower. We're eating unopened flowers, and if your broccoli flowers, you did it wrong.
  4. Red peppers are really just mature green peppers, and they take a while to turn red. I assume that's why they are more expensive in grocery stores.
  5. Brussels Sprouts are not my friend. Pick them too early, and they are too small. Pick them too late, and they rot on the plant.  :(
  6. Zucchini plants are hardy little ____ (yay mad libs). These plants had some sort of powder disease on the leaves, had vines climbing them (in addition to the standard weeds), and still managed to turn out fruit. From what I've heard, I may have had two of the most prolific zucchini plants in the world. Yep, two little $3 plants from Country Max gave me over 50 zucchini's this year!
  7. We had the least prolific tomato plants in the world... but that's because we didn't plant any. I think that also makes us unique, as that seems to be the first thing most normal people start a garden with. We didn't grow them, because we don't eat them and I certainly do not have time to make sauce. Maybe someday...

peppers and peas

butternut squash


broccoli flower

strawberry flower

water droplet on brussels sprouts leaves

brussels sprouts

cucumber tendril

Things we did plant: butternut squash, zucchini, broccoli, peppers, brussels sprouts, red onions, garlic, cucumbers, peas, spinach, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Phew. I think next year we may scale it back a bit... it was a little crowded in there. Oh and another tip, fertilize. We used chicken manure brought in by a landscaper. I think that may have contributed to the success of our first year.

If you are thinking of starting a garden, there are far better people to ask. But... if you want the advice of a newbie, let me know! I'm happy to share my limited knowledge of what (I think) worked for us.